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Sidebar on Extreme Wealth Planning - Insert in "Audrey Saves the World"

The field of what might be called "Extreme Wealth Planning" (for so called "flourishing families" with net worth in the hundreds of millions and up) is evolving from narrow but deep technical expertise, to humane learning as guidance system for advanced planning teams, or family offices, or multi-family offices. The new thought leaders have degrees, often in law or finance, but resting upon undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields like history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and often divinity. Me, too. So it takes one to know one, and it takes one to call us out for what we are and for the dangers we are running. Be it said, I am drunkard, a coward, and an opportunist. Whatever gifts God has given me I have squandered. I would rather be wealthy than wise, and what am I now but broke and insane? Take my views below not as those of the Omniscient Narrator, that is a sorry joke, but as the wretched man in the dumpster. Diogenes with a hangover.

We are not the first society with concentrated wealth and an inner circle of gentlemen and ladies who advise it. Roman satire, English Augustan satire, the plays of Shakespeare, the vanitas tradtion in poetry and sermon, Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Boethius, Dante's Inferno, Gogol's Dead Souls, the plays and stories of Chekkov, the paintings of Goya, all go the corruption of spirituality and humanity in service to great wealth. As we enter this field of forces offering up our learning, divinity degrees, therapy degrees, philosophy degrees, lit crit degrees, and ability as teachers, preachers, therapists, moral mentors, secular priests, and shamans, we should recognize the moral dangers. Shaman as Charlatan. Service to God and Mammon as simony, the mortal sin of selling holy things. We come also to the question of unconscious incompetence. We come to the question of professional standards. We come to the question of ego enlargement, grandiosity, and narcissism. We come to the question of credulity. We come to the questions taste, good and bad. We do not have the professional venues, nor standards, in which we call each other out, without giving offense. This bodes ill for the emerging field of humane wealth planning. The core virtue is humility. The first principal is "to do no harm." The best of cures for what ails us, the plague of ego inflation, is laughter. At ourselves first and foremost. We are on a Fool's errand and the funny part is how seriously we go about it, pending our pratfall.

I am very sorry I wrote that. I am sorry it even occurred to me.  I am going to be even more sorry, when I hit "Publish Now." I know I need help. Everyone tells me so. All the free advice a man could want. But will any of you, the virtuous and wise, with a billing rate of $5,000-10,000 a day, take the time to heal my soul, for free? I guess healing the rich is probably more highly leveraged, and could do more good. Every market clears at a price. And on the margins the trash piles up. Forgive me. I am not having a good day. Strong meds, alcohol and despair don't mix. I wish I had read less as a young man, or been less susceptible to it. Bits keep coming to mind, the voices of so many authors, and the muses, too, I think, or the fates, or the harpies, and they have driven me mad, I fear.

Vulcan Mind Meld (For Audrey's Standardized Testing)

Audrey had been “tested” by Master Jack who was her Home Schooling Teacher after the Annie Oakley incident at 4th grad prep school, leading to Audrey being expelled, and just avoiding the Terror Watch List. No school will have her now. Master Jack, before Tutor got to the Castle, had given her age appropriate standardized English and Math tests, of 100 questions, multiple choice, four possible answers per question. On English she got a score of 1 out of 100. The lowest score on record worldwide. On math she managed a 0 out of 100, on the multiple guess format, for the Advanced Placement. Jack has told Tess she is, technically speaking, a “high functioning idiot.” She cannot be taught. All help is remedial. How sad that a math genius like Tess has a math-idiot for a child! Master Jack will Prepare the Heir, which is his job and calling, but allowances must be made for Audrey's mental deficiencies. Jack can only do so much.

Tutor tells Tess he can “fix” Audrey's brain within the hour, in fact within the next few minutes. Asked how, he says, “Vulcan mind meld.” Derision greets him from Jack. Tess assumes he is playing the Fool, as is his wont.  So, to show seriousness, Tutor bets Master Jack one month of their respective stipends ($15,000 a month honorarium for Jack as Most Trusted Advisor, Secular Priest, and Mentor to Heir vs. Tutor’s monthly stipend of $100, as Catholic Friar in Residence, World class Fool, and Surrogate Dad) that Audrey will, after a mind meld, score in the top 1% in the world for test takers her age. Jack to proctor and grade. All fair and square. Game on!

Tutor then absents himself and joins Audrey in her room. Master Jack is her “Mentor” and nemesis. There is little she would not do to frustrate him. (“He calls me Princess, don’t ever, ever do that! You can call me Pumpkin if you have to, but not Princess, ok? Promise?”) So, Tutor explains the bet and whispers to her how the Vulcan Mind Meld works. High fives!

Momma and Jack enter for the moment of truth, Jack with two tests in cellophane and one number 2 pencil, and his gold pocket watch. (He is old school.) Tutor bends his head down, down towards Audrey's red haired skull. When he touches her skull with the tip of his grey head, an enormous charge must have leapt between them like a spark, given how Audrey twitches, writhes and dances about, totally stunned, groaning and swooning like someone healed of a brain tumor at an old time revival. Then she sits down, holding her lap-desk, a melamine top attached to a green beanbag. Her feet, are outstretched. Tutor, to maintain the massive electric current, sits with his big feet touching hers.

Jack, scowling like The Evaluator he is, provides the math test, cautioning Audrey not to break the seal until so instructed. She has two hours. Any questions? None, it seems. “You may now break the seal.” Audrey does. Removes the wrapper, and does nothing, She just sits there. Then Tutor feels her left foot pressing on his right foot, like an accelerator, pedal to the metal. The kid becomes a blur of intensity. Eyes slitted, hand zipping along, tongue protruding, like when Rex chases a tennis ball. She is bubbling in answers faster than you can see, no thought, none, must be totally random. In four minutes, finished. “Done, Sir!,” she says in her best Shirley Temple voice. Another day, another mockery made of authority. But it is her future, if she wants to throw it all away. Jack sniffs and shakes his head sadly at Momma, as if to say, “I told you she was intransigent.”

Then the scene repeats with the English test.

Finished Audrey assumes her “ready for fun or trouble” pose, crouching down with her bottom below her knees, front paws raised. From this pose she can be a rabbit bouncing, or she can crook elbows and waddle like a duck. She waits, pistoning up and down, for her exam results,  as Master Jack applies the stencil. “My God!,” he exclaims, “She got a 99 on the English test.” Audrey goes rabbit mode, bouncing up and down the room so fast. Then Master Jack exclaims, “No! She got a 100 on the math.” These are the highest scores in human history. Audrey enters  duck mode, waddling up and down in front of Master Jack, who loses all control and chases her from the room, shouting, “You little jerk! You sandbagged me…. A month’s salary…. I am going to take it out of your hide…..”

Tess looks at Tutor. “Mind-meld?” “Yes, Madame, your daughter has already taught me a lot.”

Why Has a Just and Loving God Allowed the Rich to Bear it all Away, with our Help as Trusted Advisors?

The Happy Tutor is definitely "old school," having descended from nobles, going back to the Dark Ages, and before that in Rome. He has served the wealthiest families since at least Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, and Nero. I asked him why, as he lounged in our Dumpster, on a brief break from his work at the Castle by the Sea, why the wealthy? He said that he was put on earth to make the world better by helping families flourish. I said that sounded great and all, but Tess, our sole paying morals tutorial client,  is worth $100 billion and rapidly rising. How is helping her and her family helping the world? Why not help families struggling with between, say,  $10 and 20 billion? He said that in helping Tess, he will help Audrey own, rule, and save us all. Again that sounds good. For a confirmed monarchist, who is still pissed off about the Magna Carta, the fall of the Bourbon Kings,  and the American Revolution that might be a good and sufficient answer, and I love Audrey too, but how does it comport with Tutor being a Catholic Priest? Doesn't scripture say we will find God's face among the sick, the imprisoned, the poor? Where does it say that we serve God by serving Mammon? Tutor then told me a kind of parable. It has helped me a lot, as a wannabe secular priest, or morals tutor to the rich. Maybe if you are called to serve the uber-rich it will help you too.

"Phil," The Happy Tutor said to me, lounging naked as Diogenes, on a sack of garbage, above a composting layer of great books tossed in our dumpster by schoolchildren at the end of the first semester:

God in high heaven, the King of Kings, above the ranked hierarchy of Angels, far above Satan's serried ranks in Hell, said to the good angels, "I will station not one but two of you in the counting house where the richest of the world plan their legacies in structures designed to outlast death. One angel will stand behind the decision maker at the head of the table. The other will stand behind the most trusted advisor.  As the advisor's Guardian Angel, you will open one pregnant pause, before papers are signed. And as Guardian Angel of the decision maker, you will prolong the pause not for just one but for three beats of the heart, as the holy spirit knocks, once, twice, and one time more. Three times only. Then the spirit moves on. I have made mankind sufficient to stand, and free to fall. Neither Angel will determine the outcome. Faith, hope and charity. The greatest is love. Created in love, sustained in love, wealthy through my love.... we shall see what creatures I have birthed. Ashes to ashes. Wheat and chaff. Fruitful tree pruned. Unfruitful burned.

Tutor then pointed me, as learned as he is, to John Milton, "On his Blindness." That poem concludes, "Those also serve who only stand and wait." I guess he meant me. My three beats of the heart must have passed ages ago. The rest, when the spirit withdraws, is death in life. Which is why I drink, I guess. I wish you and your clients better.

Audrey's Allowance, as Befits the World's Wealthiest Minor

The subject of Audrey's allowance has come up. Wise Master Jack, the Most Trusted Advisor in all of Wealth Bondage, suggests a family gift of $5.3 million to optimize the unified credit and also $13,000 a year.  With that amount, he suggests that as Audrey's Regent cum Trust Officer, he could leverage the money through "opportunity shifting." He would start in the Caymans a clone of Tess's most profitable business. At inception, sans customers, the value of the business is $5 mil. Audrey can be gifted it tax free. Then Tess will close the business she owned, and shift the customers to the new clone. At that point. Audrey's minority interest in the clone will go from being worth only $5 mil to, say, $5 b, all free of transfer tax! And in the Caymans, free of income tax. And in a Dynastic Trust free of all taxes in perpetuity, doubling in value, Master Jack suggests, every seven years. All of which augurs well for Audrey owning the world within her lifetime, if Tess does not accomplish it during hers. To make it even better, Master Jack points out that it could be twice as tax efficient if Tess marries, giving her a second unified credit and second annual gift tax deduction to work with. As to a spouse:" Who better than Master Jack?," he soulfully inquires dropping to one knee and offering a real diamond ring (which he got on a 10 day free look from Zales).

Tutor , by contrast, suggests an allowance of $25 a month, which is $5 more than his own monthly stipend, as Priest and Morals Tutor in Residence, he having taken a vow of poverty. He also, to give Tess a choice, proposes his hand in marriage, dropping to both knees and offering her a pop top from a can of Coke. This draws a big laugh, as befits the Court Fool, just doing his main job.

Tess splits the difference between her Suitor-Advisors. She cordially rejects both marriage proposals. And she  awards Audrey $100 a month, with the proviso that Audrey assume full fiscal responsibility for Rex, her Rescue Dog.

Audrey receives the money not in cash, but in a grown-up debit card account, that she can now manage, with Tutor's help. The first $100 is paid in advance, making Audrey as rich as can be; wealth she is determined to use responsibly.


King Lear and The King's Men - Lessons on the Slippery Art of Family Governance

King Lear: The History Revealed by Fintan O'Toole, reviewed in The New York Review of Books.

Family Governance for Governing Families. The role of the artist, under a patron. The role of the King's Man. Support, absorb, refactor, and subvert, for the greater good. More power than a Wise Counselor in the traditional Courtier mode. More power than Parliament. Only an all licensed Fool could do more. Were I a wise man I would join Wise Counsel, giving sage advice to families as powerful as our former Monarchs, before we broke from English rule. 

The Wise make good use of literature, as of everything else. If they were wiser yet, they would be Fools. And perhaps The Happy Tutor could show them how. He is a Secular Priest, or actually a real priest, educated at Oxford as a cleric, since under Primogeniture (how our august predecessors beat the proverb, ashes to ashes, and rags to rags), he had to go into the army, become a judge, or be a priest and scholar, with a parish, or a school, or if lazy, as Tutor is, and a drunkard, and carouser, he could set up as a Morals Tutor to his noble neighbor's brats. Mentoring the Heirs, as we now say. The Happy Tutor is also the Lord of Misrule. So are our Wise Counsel, today, if by Misrule we mean the rule of the richest forever. Fool is one thing, Coxcomb, or Villain is another.

In Lear, do we pity the pauper at the base of Fortune's wheel as it turns, or the King at the top who must inevitably fall? When the highest and lowest trade places, 'handy dandy' who goes in ermine, and who in rags? Change places, and who is the thief, and who is the justice? Who is the sighted one? Who is blind?  Who is sane and who mad? Riddle me that, Wise Counsel. But more importantly, can we like Shakespeare, speak truth in riddles to power, and still be awarded our four yards of red cloth to wear the King's livery at court? So far Tutor, buck naked in a Dumpster, must await future delivery. Advantage Wise Counsel.

If I were to write my own Book on Wealth and the Will of God, I would add the epigraph: "Wiser are the Children of Darkness." And believe me, I have learned that to my own cost. Let it be a lesson to us all.

3 Ways to Make A Mid-Sized Fortune from Philanthropic Consulting

  1. Be born to a large fortune
  2. Make a large fortune
  3. Marry a large fortune

Seriously, the most common question I get from advisors is how to make money at this.  The answers are fees for service, life insurance to replace gifted asset and to complete estate and business transition plans, and assets under management.  If the client follow the advice of Jesus in the Gospels to "give all you have to poor and follow me," interpose yourself to defer that gift for as long as possible while you manage the money.  For every dollar sent to the poor, how many pennies can we as advisors extract for how many years for the carriage? The best in this field today are probably "the dual passport advisors," as they are sometimes called, as listed above (wealthy, philanthropic advisors, giving advice to their peers). They may lose money at it, or make very little, but they are already independently wealthy and are doing it for love of the work. Wish I could say otherwise, but they go from rich sometimes to broke in this labor of love. I could give you names, but won't.

The Use of Force in Philanthropic Planning

The Use of Force, a 1,500 word tour de force by W.C. Williams, a physician, poet and short story writer, tells, in the first person, how a country doctor forces a spoon down a young, screaming girl's throat, to lay bare the secret she would die to protect - tonsils covered in the membrane symptomatic of diphtheria. The focus of the tale is on the doctor's own rage, his insensate, unreasoning urge, when crossed by the child, "to go on to the end," to defeat her, break her, violate her intransigently, clenched mouth.  To any parent, teacher, or Morals Tutor to the wealthy, the story resonates endlessly.  As did the child, we all, donors and advisors alike, protect ourselves against a diagnosis that would go against us. We would rather die, as would the child, than betray the mortal secret of our corruption and be healed. Can a cure be forced? And what of the rage, the will to power, that overtakes the reformer, or satirist, when the victim, I mean patient, I mean client, is levered open, and in distress? I think Socrates knew this forbidden pleasure and bodied it forth in saying he was a "maieutic," like his mother, that is, a midwife, who helped his fellow citizens give birth to their better selves. That a male can harbor a better self, that he can be made to give birth in rage and agony like a girl, that his old self may even die in the process of giving birth, is a two thousand year old joke, one that W.C Williams would get.  To forcibly destabilize another's psyche that the sick might be healed, that the walking dead might give birth - is this not the forgotten truth of the Socratic method?  No wonder they made him drink poison. "Physician, heal thyself," as Socrates's executioner might have scoffed, holding out the fatal dose.

Service Before Self, Sire

You know, the King had his Fool to castigate, and the Prince had a Whipping Boy, to get beaten when the Prince messed up. "Why do you do that for me?" the Prince asked, "Why don't you find some other way to teach me how to behave?" His whipping boy replied, hoping to get promoted to Fool, "Service before self, Sire."

Coach as Gadfly

Socrates described himself (prior to his execution, as part of his failed defense) as "the gadfly" upon the posteriors of the body politic. Of course that is why a horse has a tail (to protect his or her own flanks from gadflies). Socrates was executed for defaming the gods, because one of his students went around knocking the organ of generation off the Herms at the crossroads in a time of war. Today, we have to study Socrates in school whether we want to or not. I am sure he would have found that amusing. We make heroes of our pariahs, because they do heal us, but we have to burn them first.

The Art of Philanthropy, State Of

I am working on a curriculum for a credential in philanthropy. In the Course Info section for the capstone course on "The Art of Philanthropy," I am contemplating such words as these. I wonder if they would get me fired, before I even begin? Ought I to keep it a bit more bland, and finesse the real issues? I welcome advice. Derision is ok too.

---- snip---

The purpose of this course is to help you transition from "studying about" philanthropy, and mastering the financial machinery of philanthropic planning, to becoming active in the world as an agent of the good.

The course is designed to bring you to the leading edge of conversations about philanthropy and philanthropic advisory services. I don't mean so much the leading edge of finance and tax law, as the leading edge of conversations among those with money about what they owe themselves, their family, and to their community, as they contemplate what matters most. The advisors who participate in and facilitate such conversations are sitting at the planning table today at the client's right hand. These trusted advisors in philanthropy are few in number, and precious. They come from many disciplines: finance, law, trust work, life insurance, investments, financial planning, planned giving, donor consulting, foundation consulting, general fundraising, wealth coaching, family systems theory, psychology, philosophy, political theory, literature, theology, sociology, mythology, history, dance, theater, music. These leading advisors are distinguished by their ability to bring all of themselves to the table, and to help the donor or client do the same. These advisors are able to think across the disciplinary silos and to facilitate the donor's efforts to create a meaningful action oriented plan. The highest level of planning is wisdom, virtue, justice, truth or beauty. We don't get there in this lifetime. But that is the quest, sometimes Quixotic, often foolish, never completed.

In this course, we will use online discussions to hash out our personal viewpoint in conversation with others. That is preparation for the kind of open ended conversations about meaning, purpose, and the world we want that draws clients and donors to us as philanthropic advisors. It is also preparation for the kind of civic dialogue that brings a community, or a subset of a community, together in common purpose, whether community members are rich or not. In a society so stratified by wealth, such inclusive conversations are critical for the health of democracy.

You will read key texts and articles by some of the leading practitioners of our noble trade. You will not be spared self-reflection. If moral philosophy is a healing trade, there is also an old saying, "Physician heal thyself." The questions in the study guide are designed to lead you to your own understanding, your own synthesis, perhaps even your own self-cure. The way the questions are set up is meant as a model for how you might yourself conduct an open-ended exploration with a prospective donor or client. I call this, "the unlicensed practice of the liberal arts." There is no law against it. No regulatory structure prevents it.  Still, such open discussions can turn the world upside down and hence may be frowned upon by those above us. 

Testing, or validation, in this course, is  "objective," that is, multiple choice. I have made every effort to use the traditional testing system as a way to reinforce the key points that you will need in the real world. I am not trying to make you parrot back my fallible and half-formed opinions as if they were doctrine, dogma, or gospel. That would be self-defeating, and would represent a worst possible practice. Instead, the questions are designed to make sure you have done the readings, focused on the main points, and can use common sense and good judgment. Sample exams are provided throughout.

To make exams less stressful, each chapter also contains a summary in which I consciously highlight the material on which the exams are based. The reduction of complex, often paradoxical and challenging material, to a testable, even memorizable, summary is a challenge. But I have done that so that you as a adult learner will have some confidence that the exam is not a mystery. With that confidence, that the exam is not "tricky," you can keep your focus on exploring in this course the skills and knowledge you need to work as a trusted advisor to wealth and power, and as a leader in our emerging discipline.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your Tutor in this effort. I am only a fellow seeker, one among many. My goal, my highest goal, is that you will come into your own and far surpass me on this journey towards the ever-elusive "world we want." Let me close with one of my favorite quotations, from a fellow moral philosopher and tutor to the wealthy, Seneca: "Here is my way; where is yours?" That Seneca ended up dead, forced to commit suicide by one of the Roman Emperors he served, should not deter us. That Cicero, another great moral philosopher, was executed by those he served, that Boethius (author of Consolation of Philosophy) was, that Jesus was, should not deter us either. We can always fall back on financial expertise and keep a low profile, if need be.  In this philanthropic advisory business, we proceed at our own risk.  May your efforts prosper.

Phil Cubeta